Have you been contacted by the IRS? If it was by email or phone, it could be a scam. The most recent scams include threatening phone calls, phony emails, and identity theft to obtain false refunds. We advise our readers to be aware of current events, and please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
Phone and Email Scams
In phone scams, thieves claim to be IRS agents and will often rig the caller ID to falsely show the IRS phone number. They will claim that you owe taxes and demand immediate payment, threatening such actions as arrest or revocation of your driver’s license if you don’t immediately pay. Sometimes, they know personal information about you, such as your social security number, your address, and names of family members. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, ask for their agent ID number and phone number, let them know you will call back to verify the legitimacy of the call, and end the call. Do not give any identifying or personal information, no matter how pressing the caller is. If you receive a phone call such as this, we advise all clients to call us immediately. Alternatively, you may also call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040 and an IRS agent will be able to verify if there is a balance owed for taxes. If it is determined that the first phone call was a fraudulent phone call (a scam), you may report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484. Normally, the IRS will not call you without first mailing you an official notice in the mail. The IRS will never require you to use a specific payment method such as an EBT or prepaid card, or ask for your credit/debit card information over the phone.
In email scams, the emails appear to be from the IRS and contain a link to a website that looks just like the official IRS site. If you receive a suspicious “IRS” email, do not reply, do not open any attachments, and do not click on any links. You may verify that the email is false by calling 1.800.829.1040 and speaking with a true IRS agent. Then, once it has been determined that the email is fraudulent, forward the email to email@example.com. The IRS will rarely correspond by email, and will never initiate contact with you via email to request payment of taxes, or to obtain personal or financial information.
What to Do If You Receive a Mail Notice
The IRS will most always initiate contact with you in the form of a written notification via the U.S. mail. The IRS will send you a notice if it believes:
- you owe additional tax
- you might be due a larger refund
- there is a question about your return
- more information is needed to process your return
If you do receive an IRS notice, please contact our office as soon as possible so that we can investigate the matter, and, if necessary, respond on your behalf. HBL team members are skilled at representing clients before the IRS on tax matters.
You might receive an IRS notice in the mail if the IRS suspects you have been a victim of identity theft. Identity thieves will use a stolen name and Social Security Number (SSN) to file a fake tax return in your name and claim a refund. You may be unaware that this has happened until you receive a notice from the IRS. This notice is frequently triggered after you file your real tax return and it is discovered one is already on file for you. You should be alert to possible identity theft if you receive an IRS notice for one of the following reasons: (1) more than one tax return was filed, (2) there is a balance due or refund offset for a year in which you did not file a tax return, or (3) the IRS is holding your refund until you verify some personal information with them. Because identity theft is a very time-sensitive issue that requires skilled help, please contact our office immediately if you receive any of these notices.
The best protection for identity theft is prevention. You can take the following steps to guard yourself and your family against identity theft:
1) Don’t carry your Social Security card or any document(s) with your SSN on it.
2) Don’t give a business your SSN unless it is absolutely required.
3) Check your credit report every 12 months – the Federal Trade Commission allows you to pull it once a year for free here: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action
4) Secure personal information in your home. Shred all unwanted mail that provides things such as credit card offers, or any other items that have any personal information.
5) Protect your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, and change passwords for accounts often. Do not use the same password for all online accounts, as once one is compromised, all accounts are compromised.
6) Don’t give your personal information over the phone, through the mail, or on the internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know with whom you are communicating.
For more discussion and news about identity theft and tax scams, please visit http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts.